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October 01 2010

IMDB's Most Underrated Shows of the Past 20 Years. The number one selection may be of no surprise to folks here. The rest of this special anniversary list also has some more Whedon connections.

Pushing Daisies isn't on the list, but I suppose one Bryan Fuller show was enough and Wonderfalls does qualify as being the more underrated (or under-appreciated) of the two.

Oh, man, I love at least half of those shows and haven't seen most of the rest yet. But I'd also think Pushing Daisies deserved a mention- if Judd Apatow gets two, no reason Bryan Fuller shouldn't get two. (The loss of Pushing Daisies hurts me nearly as much as the loss of Firefly.)
I don't know if "underrated" was the way to go with this list. I'm sure they were just desperate to avoid another "brilliant but canceled" header, but a lot of these shows have pretty solid reputations. Arrested Development is practically legend, at this point. The shows you have to fight someone to get to watch, those are the underrated gems. I'd call Dollhouse on that before some of these.
" Today, Joss Whedon's space Western is the poster child for network meddling and impatience."

Amen to that...
I believe underrated is being used as a play on words, having two meanings in this context. Both Underrated as in underestimated, but also Underrated as in having low ratings.
I think that's what they were going for.
She's Serenity, not 'the' Serenity.
14 episodes, not 13. Just sayin'.
There are some wonderful shows missing from this list, but then, every one of us has different tastes and priorities, and so there are always at least a few absentees. I'm also sure that a few that I don't care for are other people's favorites, so it all balances out, I guess.

I'm very glad to see Firefly, Veronica Mars, Sports Night, Boomtown and Advs of Brisco County Jr. on there.
I enjoyed Freaks & Geeks, Action and Party Down, though I don't know that I personally would have included them.
I actually own Undeclared, (most of) Friday Night Lights, Wonderfalls, and Life, but still haven't gotten around to watching them yet.
I always enjoy seeing Veronica Mars on this. Firefly, Arrested Development, and the Judd Apatow oeuvre are always staples, but it warms my heart to see that others still miss Veronica as much as I do.

That being said, I don't think I've even heard of half of the series on this list.
Firefly is so good, it makes me sad thinking about how good it is, Buffy will ALWAYS be my #1 show, but Firefly effected me in a way I can't put into words.

I only wish we had 7 full seasons of it, but I am just grateful we got Serenity, as that seemed like the perfect wrap up for the show, it's almost like Firefly was the Pilot and Serenity WAS the series, as everything we didn't get to see in Firefly (The Reavers and River being all bad-ass) we got to see in Serenity.

ALSO I think Pushing Daisies should be on here, it was almost TOO good for TV, as many people didn't "get" it.
Glad to see Firefly, Profit, Brisco County Jnr and Wonderfalls on that list.

No love for Dollhouse?

Veronica Mars was one of the worst and most over-rated shows I've ever seen. Sat through the first 8 episodes, and though it was dire and cheap looking.
Wow, those top 5 would have been exactly my top 5 (though maybe not in that order). Way to go IMDB!
I agree, Kishi, the loss of Pushing Daisies also hurt me as much as the loss of Firefly. That show was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and will probably ever see again. It was really special. And I felt that it was the best of Bryan Fuller's shows, as much as I loved Wonderfalls and enjoyed Dead Like Me.

Why do so many writers get the Firefly episode count wrong? I can understand when they say 15 episodes, if you count Serenity (the pilot) as 2 episodes, but how do you get 13?

[ edited by AnotherFireflyfan on 2010-10-01 15:16 ]
LOVE Wonderfalls. I thought it was genius.

I want to see Freaks and Geeks, it's been in my Amazon shopping cart forever but I'm waiting for the price to get lower. I've been waiting a long time.
I think Angel is the most underrated show of the last 20 years. But that might just be me.
What, no Pushing Daisies?!
Another hilarious show cut early was Kitchen Confidential, with Bradley Cooper, John Francis Daley, John Cho and Nicholas Brendon.

RIP underrated shows. Now I'm all depressed. Thanks, IMDB.
I tried watching Freaks and Geeks and just couldn't get into it. I guess I'm just not a big fan of high school shows (that don't also have supernatural elements, anyway). Too many bad memories of my own high school experience. Maybe when I'm older I'll be able to watch it with a bit more detachment.

Angel often gets overlooked among Joss's shows, which is strange because it lasted the second longest. But I think it's because people tend to lump it together with Buffy, since it was a spin-off. What I don't understand is when someone is a fan of Buffy and not Angel, or vice versa. How can you not love both?
I agree that Angel tends to get overlooked, because it's "just" the spinoff. Standing it up against Joss's other main projects: Buffy (first and most popular), Firefly (critical darling and infamous because of its circumstances), Dollhouse (newest and possibly most controversial) and Dr. Horrible (generated a lot of buzz just because of what it is and how it was done). So I can see Angel getting lumped in with Buffy, but it's a pity because I think Angel is the best of anything he's done. At least so far ;)
Firefly goes without saying.

I really miss Life. I don't care for procedurals and never watch them (except Castle), but Life was absolutely riveting. I rank its last episode as one of the best hours of TV ever made, right up there with Out of Gas and The Gift. I can't bring myself to buy the DVDs because they took out the brilliant soundtrack, which was so much of what made it special.
Tymen - Oh duh, on my part, haha. That makes perfect sense. :)

I think Veronica Mars stands pretty well on this list. A couple of weekends ago, I actually had to argue with a friend of mine to get him to watch it, and it's such a good show.
Seen all of the first 8 shows, all brilliant. All of them are critical darlings, so I don't know what to say really. The ones I intend to see are: Sports Night, The Adventures of and The Tick.
I accept this list's exclusion of Buffy only if they've decided it's no longer underrated.
SeanHarry said:

Veronica Mars was one of the worst and most over-rated shows I've ever seen. Sat through the first 8 episodes, and though it was dire and cheap looking.


I...I...have no words. I'm baffled. I shall walk away now, scratching and shaking my head in confusion and disbelief. So very strange, that bold statement.
I think, similar to The Wire (gasp!), you need the see the entire first season of Veronica Mars (or at least half) to make a proper judgement. Both are heavily structured season-arcs and dropping it is more akin, imo, to dropping a book or film mid-way than it is dropping a TV show.
I would have put Wonderfalls much higher on the list and Undeclared much lower. Freaks and Geeks keeps getting mentioned as part of the Judd Apatow oeuvre, but if you compare F&G to Undeclared and to the Apatow movies, it's clear that while superficially similar, F&G is deeper and darker, and I think owes its soul to series creator Paul Feig more than Apatow. Had Undeclared been continued, it probably would have stayed funny and raunchy. Had F&G continued in the direction it was going, it would have gotten more painful and more real.

[ edited by barboo on 2010-10-01 17:36 ]
SeanHarry said:

Veronica Mars was one of the worst and most over-rated shows I've ever seen. Sat through the first 8 episodes, and though it was dire and cheap looking.

kungfubear
I...I...have no words. I'm baffled. I shall walk away now, scratching and shaking my head in confusion and disbelief. So very strange, that bold statement.


While I thought the first season was excellent, and Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring amazing, I would agree with SeanHarry's assessment after that. I think Rob Thomas just didn't know what to do with his characters after they'd grown to who they were at the end of the first season arc. The show should have been a miniseries, or possibly a number of short seasons on the Mad Men model.
Angel the Neptune of the Whedon Solar system.

I guess I really should get around to exploring the Serenity-verse.
Must say I was pleasantly surprised to see I'll Fly Away on the list. I loved that show back then, but I haven't thought about it in years. Wonderful acting. And I'm pleased to see Life make the list, as well. The first season of Veronica Mars was outstanding. The second season was less successful, and I never got past the first couple of episodes of the third, as I thought they were so dreadful.

And I have to agree with all the praise Angel has received here. I would hate to have to choose between it, Buffy, and Firefly, but it certainly deserves more respect than it gets. I still remember crying all day long when I saw here that it was cancelled.
I'm guessing the "undurrated" in this list is at least nominally based on the show in question's broadcasting success versus it's overall quality rating according to IMDB users.

Which reminds me, I've found that tabulating and analyzing the IMDB user ratings data for tv shows specifically (overall show as well as indivdual episodes) can be really interesting and enlightening as to what quantities turned out to be their artistic strengths and weaknesses, not to mention the potential consequences of their distribution (all dependent, of course, on your level of faith in the IMDB's userbase.) I've actually been tentatively studying the data available for a number of shows - including the whedonverse quartet - for quite some time, and I must say that it is fascinating what you can uncover - imo there's a whole slew of articles on the topic of analyzing IMDB ratings data for tv shows post-broadcast just waiting to be written.

If only I had less of an actual life so I could start writing them...

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-10-01 19:27 ]
How come no one ever does a list of overrated shows? You know, the ones that enjoy some critical and much commercial success, but really don't quite stack up? I could really put on my Snark Hat for a list like that.
brinderwalt, my main issue with IMDb for TV shows is that most people give a snap judgement, so if the show has an iffy pilot episode, its stuck with that rating, even if it hugely improves later on. Similarly, if the show starts off great and then declines into the terrible, the rating is incredibly deceiving. This is my main issue with almost every site that tries to "rate" shows. It doesn't allow room for improvement or failure.

(That isn't what you just said, is it? :p)
Tin Ear Tom said:

How come no one ever does a list of overrated shows? You know, the ones that enjoy some critical and much commercial success, but really don't quite stack up? I could really put on my Snark Hat for a list like that.


Funnily enough, a few of the shows on this "Underrated" list would appear on my personal "Overrated" list (including Firefly- not trying to troll, but I'll just never understand it, sorry! It's the one ugly dark spot on Whedon's otherwise-stellar resume for me- and Arrested Development, which I thought was just stupid). I'd also put Lost on there- aside from the first season, which was really quite good, I hated Lost (in fact, it's safe to say I hate it more because of how stellar its first season was- so much wasted potential...).

This list is missing Dollhouse, Pushing Daisies, Fringe, Carnivale, and Damages, which would probably be my personal Top 5 (in that order, and made up only of shows not already on the list- otherwise, Friday Night Lights would probably be on there somewhere). A recent underrated show, IMO, that might very well end up on a similar list a few years from now, is Rubicon.
brinderwalt, my main issue with IMDb for TV shows is that most people give a snap judgement, so if the show has an iffy pilot episode, its stuck with that rating, even if it hugely improves later on. Similarly, if the show starts off great and then declines into the terrible, the rating is incredibly deceiving. This is my main issue with almost every site that tries to "rate" shows. It doesn't allow room for improvement or failure.

The interesting thing about the IMDB is that it lets its users rate individual episodes of tv shows in addition to giving a single rating for the show overall (the number you normally see referenced.) For example, Buffy currently has an IMDB show rating of 8.5/10 based on 27,465 votes. However, if you go to Buffy's IMDB page and click on the "episode ratings" tab you will find that there are tens of thousands of additional votes that people have gone through the added trouble of casting for each of its 144 individually listed episodes.

By taking these numbers and entering them into a spreadsheet, you can then work out all sorts of additional statistics, such as a more accurate overall show rating - in the case of Buffy a 7.9/10 based on averaging together all 68,779 votes cast for individual episodes - or ratings averages for each broadcast season (Buffy: 7.5, 7.9, 8.2, 7.8, 7.9, 7.9, and 7.9/10.) Line graph these numbers and you can study the trends which emerge. Assemble additional details for each episode - such as cast and crew - and you can compile further statistics, such as the average rating of a Joss directed episode versus those directed by others (no, I haven't had the time to figure that one out just yet.)

Obviously it's all dependent on how many samples you have and - as you point out - how much thought was put into the voting. The thing is, I just can't see why anyone would go through the trouble of entering ratings for individual episodes of tv shows on the IMDB unless they've already put a great deal of thought into forming an opinion.

Also for every user rate-able item on the IMDB (including individual tv episodes) there is an accompanying page that will give you a detailed analysis of the voting distribution as well as a demographic breakdown of the contributing voters (unsurprisingly according to Buffy's overall show rating page its strongest demographic is "females under 18" while its weakest is "Males Aged 45+".)

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-10-02 03:28 ]
l concur with this list. Alot of good shows have fallen through the cracks because the networks didn't give them a chance.
"I'm guessing the "undurrated" in this list is at least nominally based on the show in question's broadcasting success versus it's overall quality rating according to IMDB users".

You're likely right about that brinderwalt. I would assume that it's the reason that Angel isn't on there, as well as other terrific shows that were canceled prematurely, but still had more than two Seasons (Once & Again comes to mind as an obvious example).
There are are several shows I'd knock off that list, to include Dollhouse and Carnivale.

Great to see Life included though. I knew from the beginning that show was too smart and subtle to make it.
Simon, that's a good point about Angel. It really never gets the critical cred that it deserves - not like people pan it, but it really does get lumped in with Buffy. That's a shame, I think, because Angel is in a lot of ways intellectually more sophisticated than Buffy. Certainly more sophisticated than critical faves like Lost (its pretensions at saying something about political philosophy were just sad) and Mad Men (which, IMHO, is the most overrated show currently on TV).
I miss a lot of the shows on that list, especially Firefly, but also Wonderfalls, which I didn't catch on TV but have the DVDs, Sports Night which I DID watch on TV and was the first DVD set I ever bought, Veronica Mars and Life. To the list I would add Pushing Daisies, Journeyman and Eli Stone. Those are shows I still miss and for which I will someday buy the DVDs.

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